Spot the truffle hunter

You probably get the idea behind the use of dogs in truffle hunting — dogs have good senses of smell, they are friendly to humans, and they don’t like to eat truffles (as pigs do). But have you seen one in action?

We hadn’t either, until this past Sunday’s expanded weekly market and Salon de la Gastronomie, which promised a demonstration of chiens truffiers. And sure enough, we got what we were promised — plus a bit more canine biology than we were really looking for.

As it turned out, we had missed the morning’s demonstration, since my wife Jan was out for a walk and I was riding my bike. So we checked Daglan’s main square again in the afternoon, and were assured that things would be starting soon. Naturally, they dragged on, and on. Even when the truffle hunter and his trusty dog showed up, they wound up sitting in one of the drinks booths, doing not much of anything. But eventually, they emerged. Here they are, heading for the demonstration arena — a timber-enclosed area of soil decorated with small shrubs and flowers to look like a patch of forest. First, our trusty dog gets a pat on the head.

Dog and owner

Our trusty truffle hunter on the sidelines, ready to show off.

Now the dog begins to sniff around the demonstration area. Note that the owner has let the leash slip free, so the dog is on its own.

Starting to sniff

He begins to sniff around for a truffle.

Now the dog is back on the leash, and seems to be closing in on a buried truffle.

Locating a truffle

Still searching.

Victory — the dog has scented a truffle, so the owner reaches down and digs it out. We all applaud.

Success

Success -- the owner picks up the truffle.

By the time the dog had found two or three truffles, this was beginning to seem suspiciously easy. It looked, in fact, like the location of the truffles was marked by a small twig stuck in the ground, so that the dog’s owner could guide the dog to the right spot. Not what you’d call truly gripping. In any case, the dog did do what it was supposed to do, and so the owner rewarded it with a treat from his little plastic bag every time a truffle was found. Here they are, and you’ll note how attentive the dog is:

Treat

Now our trusty truffle hunter gets his reward.

Then, without warning, we had the canine equivalent of The Great Escape. Our trusty truffle-sniffer bolted out of the demonstration ring when he spotted another dog on the sidelines, and raced over to get acquainted, as only dogs can. So then we were treated to an extended period of mutual dog-sniffing before the owner could lead our truffle-finding dog back to work. Here are the two dogs, sniffing away — in some places where I doubt there were any truffles, if you get my meaning.

Sniffing

I don't think they really expected to find truffles.

Embarrassed, the human truffle hunter regains control of  his dog’s leash, and leads the dog back to the demonstration ring. Here they go:

Retreat

Dog and owner make their retreat, back to the demonstration area.

By then, the spell had been broken, and the crowd seemed to lose its appetite for the event. But the Salon de la Gastronomie continued on for the rest of the afternoon. There were fruits and vegetables and bottles of wine and Champagne to be purchased, and the crowd seemed quite capable of doing that. In fact, we bought four bottles of Champagne ourselves.

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This entry was posted in French food, Life in southwest France, Markets in France, Tourist attractions. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Spot the truffle hunter

  1. I saw the truffle hunter last year, and it sounds like it was exactly the same routine. I have no doubt the dog performs much better under normal conditions, in the quiet of the forest with his owner, on a chilly January morning. But with the hubbub of the crowd, and other playmates to visit with, I’m sure he ‘s a little distracted.

    Sounds like you’re surviving the madness pretty well. We’ve been jammed here at the B&B, but know things will calm down soon…I really enjoy reading your entries. Wish I had more time to work on my own blog, but am currently too busy handling the guests’ comings and goings.
    Apero time soon, though…we still have to see your place!

  2. Lesley says:

    Was the dog’s name really Spot?

  3. Loren says:

    Hi Lesley, No — that’s just me taking liberties, since the dog was kind of spotted, and the headline has a bit of a double meaning, like “See if you can spot the truffle hunter.” The fellow with the loudspeaker told the crowd the dog’s real name, but he was so loud that even our French friends couldn’t make out what he was actually saying!

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